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Beth Israel Congregation


Beth Israel Congregation Newsletter

March/April 2009
Adar/Nisan/Iyar 5769

From the Cantor's Desk
Purim Carnival
Friday Night Kumsitz
Conference on Jewish Medical Ethics
Passover Community Seder
News from the Hebrew School
Bath Food Pantry
Gift Shop
Birthdays and Anniversaries
Donations and Welcomes

NOTE: It is our policy that no personal telephone numbers, email addresses or mailing addresses be contained in the web version of our newsletter. If you need to get in touch with one of our members please email us at

From the Cantor's Desk

by Daniel Leeman

Beth Israel's First Yom Hashoah Observance at University of Maine Augusta Campus

Through a generous philanthropic gift of Michael Klahr, a Holocaust and Human Rights Center (HHRC) facility has recently been built in Augusta. The Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine had been in existence for some time, but the magnificent new building attached to the Katz Library on the grounds of the University of Maine, Augusta campus, presents a wonderful locus for new programs and initiatives promoting peace. This new facility stands as a symbol and sends a profound message to the Jewish communities spread throughout Maine that State officials and Maine Department of Education officials are committed to an entity that will remember the plight of our people and many others who suffered at the hand of tyranny and oppression in Nazi Europe during WWII. The leaders of the HHRC are dedicated to making this organization a learning and memory center, not only for Jewish people, but for all people of good will, who wish to understand the lessons of the war. Students and educators from all over the state have already availed themselves of the extensive educational resources available at the Center.

On Sunday, April 26th, at 1:00 pm, our entire synagogue membership is invited to a special program for a Yom Hashoah Holocaust observance and memorial at this facility in Augusta. In addition to our community observance, there will be three private gatherings where our synagogue will be privileged to meet with figures who were instrumental in creating and or developing the Center and its unique programs.

First, Robert Katz, an artist at UMA, will address our group regarding the monument in front of the building. When the building was dedicated, some ashes from Auschwitz were buried beneath the monument. These ashes were collected by the artist expressly for this purpose. The aesthetic of having the remains of the innocent victims buried in front of the museum is a powerful one. The artist will explain some of his conception.

Second, there will be a screening of excerpts from a beautiful film that was made in 1995, entitled Maine Survivors Remember the Holocaust. In it survivors tell their story. They're shown living their lives peacefully in Maine as your neighbors, having overcome, as best they could, the tragedy of their experiences during the war. Dr. Robert Bernheim, a prominent historian on staff at the HHRC of Maine, will field questions about it.

Lastly, we will view a 7 minute film in the foyer of the facility about the life of Michael Klahr, who survived the war under extraordinary circumstances, and later succeeded in business in the Boston area. He was a naturalist and explorer of Northern Maine, and was the philanthropist who was responsible for the gift that made the construction of this new building and Center in Augusta possible. His friend, Phylis Jalbert, a Maine Guide, was responsible for administering the gift from his estate.

She will address us about his life and experiences in Maine, and show us how he transcended his harsh experiences during the war and became a generous and thoughtful philanthropist. His aim has been to shape the minds and hearts of generations of Mainers who, because of his generosity and forethought, will be dedicated to a life of peace.

Please plan on an hour of travel each way, and about two hours at the Center. Not all the people mentioned in the above article, who are leaders, advisors, and affiliates of the Holocaust and Human Rights Center have fully confirmed their participation in the day's events as of this publication, so there may be some modifications to the day's program moderators and coordinators. Please make every effort to join us on April 26th. Please mark your calendars now.

Reflections on an evening at the Highlands

Last Sunday, I led what's known as a Vesper Service at the Highlands Senior Life Center in Topsham. This primarily Christian program has been developed to include local clergy taking turns sharing their religious spirit with the prayer group there. Since there are a number of Jewish residents there, this is the second time I've been asked to lead this special service. I created a little booklet entitled: "An evening of Hebrew and Jewish Prayer and Song with Cantor Daniel Leeman." I compiled a number of core Jewish prayers and some lovely songs with related concepts. The group of some 25 people sang and prayed in Hebrew. There was a little spinet piano that was in good tune, that I played as an accompaniment to their singing. I was surprised at their lovely voices and participation. I translated and shared the concepts of Jewish prayer, and told a few brief Jewish stories. The residents and participants there, largely gentile, seemed to appreciate a little Jewish tradition, and our time together.

An evening commemorating the lives of the "Four Chaplains"

In February 1943 the USAT Dorchester army transport ship, carrying some 900 passengers, was torpedoed and sank by a German U- boat submarine. Only 200 survived. After being hit, the boat sank 18 minutes after impact. Hypothermia took only minutes to take hold in the frigid northern waters near Greenland, and took the lives of the vast majority of the soldiers, including some 41 Mainers.

Four Chaplains, among them a rabbi, two ministers, and a priest, calmed the young soldiers during the chaos. They helped the wounded, distributed life jackets, (giving up their own, because there weren't enough onboard), and gave encouragement to those boarding the few lifeboats, and prayed with those whose fate seemed inevitable. As the boat was sinking, many of those who survived remembered seeing the four chaplains, with their arms locked, standing together, and praying on the deck as the stern slipped into the icy waters. These chaplains were remembered by the survivors as heroes and selfless leaders who gave their all for the betterment of our country and the young soldiers in their care.

Each year, a number of organizations hold a memorial in February to remember the symbolic power of the unity, and dedication-to-service these four sacred men expressed on that fateful night.

This week, I was asked by the local American Legion in Brunswick to stand with three of my colleagues from our area, and lock arms with them. We prayed to honor the memory of these fine men. We each lit a candle, read a brief biography of the chaplain from our faith, and wrote a brief prayer to offer and share with the community in attendance. It was a moment of honor. It was a beautiful moment of unity. I thank my colleagues in faith, the legion leaders, and the community of the Elijah Kellogg church in Harpswell for hosting the event. It was an honor to participate and remember the heroism of the Four Chaplains.

Purim Carnival

Please join us on Sunday, March 8th for our community Purim carnival. Come in costume. The Megillah reading will be at the Synagogue from 10:00 am-11:00 am. It will be followed by the Parade of Costumes to the carnival. The Purim carnival at Minnie Brown Center will be from 11:15 am-1:00 pm. There will be loads of games, lots of new prizes, hamantaschen, pizza, drinks and fun for kids of all ages.

Friday Night Kumsitz, a Musical Evening

On Friday, March 20, at 7:00 pm, we will meet at the Minnie Brown Center instead of the synagogue for a special music program. Our regular Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service helps to get us into the spirit of Shabbat. A Kumsitz is just as it sounds...a night to come and sit and enjoy. This will be our third sKumsitz program. There will be soloists, duets, instrumentals and lots of group singing. Please join us for an evening of music and song to welcome our Shabbat.

The 4th Annual Maine Community Conference on Jewish Medical Ethics

by Irwin Brodsky

Beth Israel Congregation and Cantor Daniel Leeman will host the 4th annual Maine Community Conference on Jewish Medical Ethics from 10:00 am-11:30 am on Sunday, March 29th, 2008. Rabbi Carolyn Braun of Temple Beth-El and Rabbi Akiva Herzfeld of Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh, both in Portland, will evaluate genuine medical cases and apply Jewish authority to negotiate the difficult ethical dilemmas they pose.

Physicians on the panel will include Daniel Morgenstern, MD, Internist, Fellow of the American College of Physicians, and cofounder of the Bowdoin Medical Group, Deborah Hagler, MD, Pediatrician with the Bowdoin Medical Group, and Irwin Brodsky, MD, MPH, Endocrinologist at the Maine Medical Partners Endocrinology and Diabetes Center of Maine Medical Center in Portland. Diverse problems ranging from medical decision-making in nontraditional families to gender ambiguity will be discussed.

The entire community is welcome to attend free of charge. The conference will take place in the Minnie Brown Educational Center at 906 Washington Street. Doors will open at 9:30 am for refreshments. Case presentations will begin at 10:00 am. We look forward to seeing you there.

Passover Community Seder

You are invited to join family and friends for a pot luck community Passover Seder on Thursday, April 9 at 5:00 pm. Reservations are required. Please respond by April 1. Email Marilyn Weinberg at There will be a small fee to cover expenses. It is $5.00 per person/$10.00 per family and $15.00 for non-members.

News from the Hebrew School

by Barbara Leeman

Hebrew School kids led Shabbat Services

Our Heh and Daled classes led our Shabbat services on January 16th. Our Heh class consists of Shira Gersh, Jacob Hagler, Julian Ireland, and Sophie Sreden. Our Daled class is Sullivan Boyd, Zelda Clegg, Arielle Leeman, Emma Miller, Henry Raker, and Noa Sreden. Alina Shumsky and Cantor Daniel are the teachers for these classes, with Michael Brodsky as a student teacher. We enjoy seeing each of our student's rise to the occasion and shine with knowledge and excitement.

Each of the class Shabbat services include a potluck dinner prior, where the children and parents alike, make the brachot (blessings) over washing hands, blessing the children, singing zmirot (Shabbat melodies), and then benching (grace) following our meal. We encourage every member of our congregation and greater community to attend these special services. Your attendance and support will inspire our students to continue their effort towards a quality Jewish education.

Also coming soon, the Aleph and Bet class is scheduled to lead our Shabbat service on April 3rd. This will be a nice time to join the class for services, as our younger classes take over the bima.

Tu bi-Shevat Celebrated

Our Hebrew school kids had a chance to celebrate Tu B'shvat (the birthday of the trees) on Sunday, February 8th with our Beth Israel community. We had many different fruits representing different types of personalities: some with hard skins (people who may be hard to get to know), some with hard pits (those who may be tough on the inside), etc. We mixed juices representing the different seasons. There was much lively singing, and trumpet playing interspersed throughout the Seder making it a wonderful musical gathering for all that came.

School Pictures

Hebrew school pictures are scheduled for April 1st. This is also the same day as our model Passover Seder. Our model Seder will begin immediately as we arrive at Hebrew school, and the pictures will follow.

Flat Schmuel's Adventures

Flat Schmuel continues to return from his many adventures around the globe. Our students have made some wonderful posters displaying his travels.

Teen Group Gathered

Our Post Bar/Bat Mitzvah group gathered on January 25th to watch and discuss the movie "Freedom Writers," about an inner city teacher, committed to educating her students and helping them overcome the peer pressure to join gangs. She told them about the "ultimate gang" called the Nazi's, and taught these teenagers tolerance through the teachings of the Holocaust. A discussion with our teens followed, and ideas for future events were discussed.

Celebrate Purim, Hear the Megillah Reading, Come to the Carnival, and Make Hamantashen

Our next upcoming special celebration will be the Megillah reading and our annual Purim carnival on Sunday, March 8th. Each of the children can fulfill the mitzvah of "sending portions one to another" as Mordechai instructed. Traditionally, shalach manot are delivered through a messenger and not given personally. Therefore we "send" these "bags" at the Purim carnival, for the children to exchange. These bags should contain at least 2 food items and other small items (gently used little toys does the trick), to exchange with one another. The Megillah reading will take place at 10am at the synagogue, with a parade of costumes at 11am, and a procession to the Minnie Brown Center for the carnival following.

Yom ha-Azma'ut

Yom ha-Azma'ut is rapidly approaching. We look forward to celebrating Israel's Independence Day by learning new Israeli dance steps. This is currently scheduled for April 29th.

Parent Group

The next parent group meeting is scheduled for March 4th. The meetings take place at 4:30 pm during Hebrew school. Anyone is welcome to join in, at any time.

Bath Food Pantry

by Barbara Leeman

Beth Israel Congregation and its Hebrew School are still collecting non-perishable food items to help the Bath Area Food Pantry. The food pantry has mentioned that the following items are most helpful: pasta (in boxes), canned pasta, canned meat, bottled juice, cereal, coffee (regular) and diapers (disposable). However, all items are accepted and appreciated. There is a box placed in the hallway of the Minnie Brown Center for the collection of the items. Hebrew School families will be chosen to deliver the food to the Pantry once a month throughout the year. The Hebrew School will be asked to donate items each week as part of the Tzedakah program, but anyone who would like to donate would be doing a mitzvah.

Gift Shop

by Marina Singer

Check out the gift shop showcase next time you come to the Minnie Brown Center. There are books for adults and children, including Passover reading.

We have jewelry, which would make perfect gifts for any special occasion, as well as the usual Kiddush cups, kippot, cookbooks, games and other traditional items. If you are interested in ordering specialty Haggadahs for your family Seder, email or call Marina Singer.

Birthdays and Anniversaries

Listing the birthday's and anniversaries of those in our immediate family, creates a wonderful opportunity for our community/shul family to have an excuse to celebrate with each other. We have listed the few that we have. Please send along all birthdays and anniversaries of your family to Barbara Leeman so that they can be included with the next bulletin issue.

March Birthdays

9   Andrew Schoenberg
10   Monica Blatt
12   Ethan Blatt
12   Tobyn Blatt
12   Rachel Schoenberg
27   Noa Sreden

April Birthdays

2   Lisa Tessler
5   Nadia Leiner
7   Sumner Blatt
9   Susan Horowitz
29   Matt Miller

Donations and Welcomes

We would like to thank the following people for their donations:

  • Dr. Gregory & Linda Kelly in memory of Harold & Ann Lempert
  • Lillian & Paul Karass
  • Donna & Peter Rubin in memory of Morris & Mary Petlock
  • Marilyn & Fred Weinberg in memory of Ada Y. Greenblatt
  • Goldie Singer in memory of Ada Y. Greenblatt
  • Frances F. Perry in memory of Ada Y. Greenblatt
  • David Flaherty in memory of Ada Y. Greenblatt
  • Dorothy Levine in memory of Ada Y. Greenblatt
  • Peggy Brown & John Martell in memory of Sol & Sonia Wernick
  • Nathan & Rebecca Dinces
  • Irwin & Lori Brodsky
  • George & Margaret Isaacson
  • Norma Dreyfus & Stanley Lane in memory of Janet Lane
  • Betsy Atkins in memory of Jacob Fishkind
  • Robert & Barbara Lenox in memory of Fred Lenox & Freda Selig
  • Marilyn & Fred Weinberg in memory of Frances & Marvin Weinberg
  • Donald & Mara Giulianti in memory of Leon Berman


  • Welcome to our newest member, Micah Greenwald. Born January 11, 2009 to proud parents Liza & Aaron Greenwald and brother Judah.